Posted On: 02/11/17 10:46 PM
Summertime is supposed to be a memorable time for prep hoopers. Chances to get in the gym and improve their games, travel the country and see how they stack up against elite competition, those opportunities are everywhere.
But the summer heading into his senior year was rough for Connor Nelson, a 6-5 2017 guard at Denver South. Nelson suffered a dislocated kneecap during a summer league game last June against ThunderRidge, a major injury that shelved him for six months.
Not only was Nelson forced to miss the summer circuit with Billups Elite, for whom he had played well in the spring, but he also missed the first few games of his senior season with South, which made the jump this season from 4A to 5A and has handled it well.
It’s safe to say that Nelson has made up for lost time.
The versatile guard is averaging a team-leading 14.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.6 steals per game for the 14-7 Rebels, who were 22nd in 5A RPI before suffering a loss to rival Denver East on Saturday.
Nelson has shown an ability to score from inside and out, and the Rebels depend on him to provide a lift in just about every area of the game.
“I starts with him just being an awesome kid,” D-South coach Malik Fletcher said. “He’s taken every responsibility and every challenge, and he knows he has to cover up a lot of things for us on the defensive end and score a lot as well. He has to accept a lot of different roles, and he’s just added a lot to it with the ball-handling. He’s the true leader of our team.”
Nelson said he was mostly a catch-and-shoot player as a junior but knew he’d have to elevate his game with several of the Rebels’ top players moving on. So he worked on his handling, particularly being able to quickly attack downhill after catching the ball. That has made him a tough guard because of his length. And though Nelson is still trying to regain his shooting form since the injury, he can still definitely heat up from long range. In a game we saw him play against Holy Family in the middle of January, Nelson hit 5-of-6 shots from behind the arc.
And the length comes into play on the defensive end, where Nelson has been asked to guard virtually every spot on the floor.
“Defense is definitely an emphasis over here,” he said. “We’re small so we’ve got to be able to move around and guard all five positions. So no matter your size, you’ve got to play defense.”
Nelson had begun garnering steady attention from a few Division II programs in the spring who were anxious to check him out during the summer circuit. When Nelson suffered his injury, most of the attention faded. That’s part of the reason Nelson was planning, as of last month, to do a year of prep school at Impact Academy in Las Vegas. He’s also already young for the grade he’s in.
“So I thought another year of development and growing could help me,” Nelson said.
Nelson hopes to play during the spring with Billups — alongside fellow Denver South standout Cortney Dean — and get another chance to show what he can do before he eventually heads to prep school.
If the way he’s played during his senior season is any indication, Nelson will have plenty to put on display.